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March 27, 2006

'Education without borders' group holds two-day summit in Mexico City

By Jennifer McNulty

Educators from the United States and Mexico are pursuing initiatives that would benefit students on both sides of the border, including creation of a binational virtual high school.

A recent two-day summit in Mexico City brought together educators, legislators, and business representatives for a discussion of how online learning can address the common educational challenges facing California and Mexico. The summit, Access to Education Opportunities without Borders through Online Learning, was hosted by University of California College Prep Online (UCCP) and the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE). It was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Goals include aligning the Mexican K-12 curriculum with California content standards so course work in Mexico can be credited in California and vice versa, translating UCCP's online courses from English to Spanish, and meeting the needs of underserved students.

Established in 1999, UCCP helps bridge the educational gap for students by providing high-quality online college-prep courses, curricula, and academic services, including test preparation and tutoring.

Already, UCCP and Colegio de Bachilleres (Mexico’s high school diploma-granting education agency) have aligned the Mexican online curriculum with California standards. This fall, participating school districts in a pilot program in Imperial County will begin accepting a "certificate of equivalency" that Mexican students can present to receive credit for courses taken in Mexico.

Also this fall, UCCP will begin offering college-prep courses in Spanish for English-language learners, allowing them to stay on track for college even as they improve their language skills.

"We want to make it possible for all students to earn a high school diploma and be prepared to attend the college of their choice despite any language limitations or mobility issues they face," said UCCP founder and executive director Francisco Hernandez, vice chancellor of student affairs at UCSC.

"Collaborating with Mexico is a dynamic approach to meeting the needs of our students, including California's 1.3 million K-12 students who are native Spanish speakers," said UCCP director Moises Torres.

The feasibility of a binational virtual high school is also being explored. In the meantime, researchers from UCCP, UC Davis, and institutions of higher education in Mexico are developing ways to evaluate the effectiveness of online educational collaborations between the two countries.

Other participants at the summit included John Anderson, superintendent of the Imperial County Office of Education; Patricia Gandara, professor of education at UC Davis; and Joyce Justus, interim vice provost in the Department of Student Affairs in UC's Office of the President and former chair of the Education Department at UCSC.

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